Friday, June 29, 2007

Taking a break

I’m just getting ready to leave for Pam and Brian’s cottage up in Meaford. David and I are going for the long weekend, so it will be fun to spend time with some of my favorite people. I’m also looking forward to writing in my journal, taking pictures, reading and sitting by the water. I also hope there’s at least one clear night because I love looking up at the stars.
John is staying behind because he’s trying to finish a big project he’s been working on. He’s also going to baby sit Lily. I usually take her with me when I can, but Pam couldn’t find my cat niece Ubu when they came back to Toronto on Tuesday. (She is hiding somewhere in their cottage and Brian’s brother Ted has been going in to feed her...Ubu, not Pam!)

Lily loves Meaford, but she also has a thing about cats so she would be after Ubu 24/7. Not that it would really bother the kitty. Serene and resourceful, Ubu has her own secret cubbyholes to retire to, but Lily’s vigilance would definitely drive the rest of us crazy.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Have you ever noticed that the things you have trouble with continue to be troublesome? (Does this make sense, or is it an oxymoron?)
What I’m trying to say is that unless things come together quickly for me visually, I usually end up spending a lot of time trying to get them right. Take this clip art image of a mirror, for example. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been playing around with it and come up with a number of different versions, none of which have satisfied me. I don’t have to be totally satisfied though, just reasonably so.
Because the actual mirror was missing from the frame, and the word “reflection” conjures up both an action and an image, I thought I’d put the two together to see what happened. Somehow it didn’t really gel. I think it’s the lettering. The question is: do I start all over again, or just chalk it up to experience? (It would be nice to feel experienced for a change).

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I’ve been thinking a lot about the quality of persistence lately because I’m closing in on the end of my book. I should be finished writing it sometime this weekend. Then I’ll have to read everything through and change the order. I just hope I don’t find anything major that needs reworking yet again. I also have to design the cover, and I don’t have a clue what to do with it.
If there’s one lesson I’ve learned from this whole experience though, it’s that you have to stick at things or you will never finish. We know this intellectually of course, but when we actually have to put it into practice we discover persistence is complicated, messy and boring (at times).
The hardest part for me has been regrouping psychologically when I couldn’t meet my weekly quota of pages. It’s also been sobering to face the fact that while I’m a decent writer, I’m not a great one—and never will be. Fortunately Photoshop seems to have taken over where my writing skills leave off, so I’m now on a mission to learn as much as I can in that area.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Family Reunion

We drove up to Bruce and Diane’s place in Orillia for our biannual family reunion today. Some adults, and four of the kids were missing this time, but Bridget, Claire, David, Emma and Brian carried on like a bunch of ten year olds in the swimming pool. There was a ton of food, lots of talking and laughing, and of course the weather was perfect.
I took plenty of pictures in my self-appointed role as the family photographer. As you can see, David has cut his hair. It’s hot in the glass studio, so he’s a lot more comfortable with the mini carpet he’s got going on now. (I like this picture because it looks as if I Photoshoped his head onto the water in the swimming pool).

Just as I was getting used to David’s hair-free ways, Emma decided to change her look too. Naturally a dark blonde, she went brown/auburn on Thursday, and as soon as I saw her I thought she looked like a little Highland lassie. Because she loves dogs so much, I took this picture of her with Tumbles, one of Bruce and Diane’s two dogs.
Now I'm off to organize my week and have yet another piece of Diane's incredible carrot cake.

Friday, June 22, 2007

I Can Sew! (sort of)

We had a ball at Carmi’s Commandos tonight. The project was making an ATC from fabric and fusible webbing—something I’ve never done before, and it’s so much fun. Carmi walked us through each step…well, mainly me since everyone else seemed to know what they were doing.
Then Carmi showed me how to use the sewing machine. Me! A person who went to a school where I studied Latin and Religious Knowledge instead of Home Economics. (Good for the roots of words and my spirit…bad for things like cooking and sewing). Anyway, now I’m hooked on the whole fabric thing and I swore I would never be when I’ve got so many talented friends doing it like Carmi, Colette and Martha.
Then each of us showed our challenge for this meeting: altering letters of the alphabet. I was lucky this time because I got the letter X, which had to be the easiest letter to do something with. I did my usual minimalist shtick, and fortunately I was first, because it just got better after that. Carolyn covered hers with metal work, Aracely mounted her letter on two elephants, and Karen covered hers with polymer clay. Wow, what a talented bunch of friends I have. It was a great evening. Thanks so much Carmi!

P.S. Mary, we missed you, and I have the next challenge for you. (And it is a challenge).

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Blogging and RubberStampMadness

I wrote an article on blogging for the July/August issue of RubberStampMadness and there are three blogs you should definitely check out if you’re a stamper.
First, there’s Debbie Olson of Norway, Michigan who has all sorts of cool samples on her site, particularly cards. She is an excellent writer so it’s always interesting to read about her creative process.
Then there’s Godelieve Tijskens of of Neerpelt, Belgium who has a great bilingual blog crammed with all sorts of neat samples, and she’s generous with instructions too.
And finally, Steven Vander Meer who is the owner and designer of Meer Images Rubber Stamps in Arcata, California. I love how he shares the process from initial sketch to finished stamp.I reread the article tonight for the first time since writing it, and now I’m thinking I’d like to give my own blog a whole new look when I’m finished writing my book.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Finding What You Didn’t Lose

I had to go on a mad tear trying to find a client’s files today. I looked everywhere methodically, while trying not to freak. Had I tossed them out six weeks ago when I went on a huge clean and purge?
After a couple of hours of heavy duty looking, I found them underneath my Xyron. What possessed me to put them there I’ll never know. John told me I always have a good reason for putting things where I do. The only problem is that I usually forget it in the meantime.

While I was looking for the files, I came across all sorts of nifty stuff like books, rubber stamps, stickers, paper, paint etc. that I’d forgotten I had. I think I’m going to treat myself to a day of sifting through all my art supplies in the near future, There’s something so satisfying about grazing through all the possibilities without actually feeling that you have to do anything with them.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


I took a break from my book tonight to learn something new in Photoshop and to work on our club assignment for Friday night.
One of the books I got for Christmas was Photoshop CS2 Killer Tips, but I didn’t take a good look at it until this weekend. Some of the stuff I already know (courtesy of the Planet Photoshop tip of the day), but what interested me in particular was finding out how to put an image inside type. You have to choose a chunky font like Futura Extra Bold, which I used here, but it was pretty easy to do. I’ve always had this fantasy of doing paintings of words like Cy Twombly and Ed Ruscha, it’s just that the pigment is digital for me now.Another thing I’d like to try doing is designing my own font. I have Font Creator 5.5, but so far I haven’t been able to figure it out. It would probably help if I read the manual. It used to really bug me when John would jump straight into a program without an in-depth study of the major commands, and now I find I’m doing the same thing too.

The Joy of Mail

I got a great package from Jeanne today crammed full of all sorts of nifty bits and pieces like this Vaudeville postcard which I just had to scan and alter into an ATC. I haven’t had a chance to fully appreciate everything Jeanne sent, but I did read through the Artfest journal she kept for me, and honestly, it was just like being there. As I was reading it, I felt like I was sharing it with her because I was experiencing it all through her eyes and heart.
I don’t think I’ve ever let anyone read my journals except for one I kept a couple of years ago, which was more like a notebook than a record of my thoughts. But I know Pam read one of mine when I was in ninth grade and she must have been around ten at the time.
I still have this journal; it’s mainly about a guy I had a crush on who looked like Pat Boone. (Yeah, I know I’m dating myself, but I actually ended up dating him for a while and he turned out to be gorgeous but dull…so much for those high school crushes).
The thing I like best about this journal, though, is the note from Pam inside that reads: “Dear Sue, I read your journal and I found it splendid.”I remember I was so surprised that my baby sister used a word like “splendid, I couldn’t be mad at her. Pam still has a great vocabulary. She’s the only person I know who can use a word like segue, and make you want to try it out yourself instead of saying: “Huh?”

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Some people are born with an innate sense of funkiness like my brother Robin and my sister-in-law Wendy. The photo on the left shows a corner of Robin’s writing room, formerly their living room, and the one on the right, a section of one of Wendy’s collection of pictures and memorabilia that she has put up in her space at the back of the house.
Wendy also uses a kitchen on the second floor as her art room and has hundreds of costumes stored in the basement. Nifty bits and pieces are displayed everywhere like necklaces, driftwood and Buddha heads. Instead of having vegetation in the flower box on their front porch, Wendy planted a whole row of giant peacock feathers…wish I’d taken a picture of that. Robin has a signed picture of Elvis and a colored pencil drawing of a parrot I did at least two decades ago displayed over his desk.
When I got home I took a look around my studio space and I could see that I have the family pack rat thing going on too: glass bricks, angels, rust, a bird’s nest, shells and so on. But somehow it’s always more fun looking at someone else’s stuff.

Friday, June 15, 2007

An Early Night

I’m actually going to bed before twelve tonight because I’m so bushed. Last night was the Stampers of Southern Ontario’s tenth anniversary party—a Victorian Tea—and I saw all sorts of people I haven’t seen for a while, which was great. Afterwards I stayed overnight at David and Emma’s. Waking up this morning and seeing all the buildings in the early morning sunlight reminded me of being in New York.
I dropped into the World’s Biggest Bookstore to look at art books before going home, but didn’t see anything I absolutely had to have. I don’t know whether or not it’s just me, but bookstores don’t have the selection they used to. Because there aren’t as many surprises or remainders to tempt me, I don’t spend as much on books anymore. Sad really.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Graduation Day

I love this picture of Emma and her boyfriend Brian that either John or David took today. I was surprised to see that all the graduating law students received a pink stole trimmed with white fur…very Legally Blonde in my opinion. It was fun to see the male graduates wearing it too. (I wonder what the deal is with the Paris Hilton Pink though).
As graduation ceremonies go, it was just about perfect. We sat near Emma, the speeches were short, there was air conditioning and it only lasted an hour and fifteen minutes! When Emma graduated from Queens, the ceremony was held in a hockey arena and there were hundreds of people graduating. It reminded me of a religious revival without the religion. (I met a woman afterwards who told me she didn’t like to waste time so she’d read most of a novel while she was waiting for her daughter’s name to be called. That seemed a little cold to me).
David didn’t go to the Queens graduation, but he got the morning off work to come today, and Brian and my parents came too. Mum and Dad brought some beautiful pink roses which coordinated with Emma’s stole…or is it a hood? Before we went over to the law school for a luncheon, John and I took Emma’s diploma (she’s now a Juris Doctor) to be framed in a tent that was set up on the lawn. When my dad saw her framed diploma, he said he was looking forward to receiving some free legal advice, but apparently Emma can’t give any of that until she’s called to the bar a year from now.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Both John and I made pictures and framed them as part of our gift to Emma. She’s graduating from law school tomorrow, so we had to do something special. (I’m even going to wear a dress to the ceremony!)
I’ve always liked this self-portrait of the painter Angelica Kaufman who was one of the few successful woman painters in the eighteenth century. She was a friend of Goethe and also painted Sir Joshua Reynolds. Like Sofonisba Anguissola, Angelica’s father was very supportive of her talent and made sure she trained with the very best painters available. The moral here is: Dads, support your daughters!
It’s been a while since I’ve worked on a larger piece. This one is 8 x 10” but then I reduced it and turned it into an ATC for today’s blog. You would think size isn’t important when you’re working in Photoshop. Well, today I discovered that it does matter…not technically, but visually. This digital collage of Angelica has more impact in a larger size. It almost looks like a different picture when it’s reduced. Something to keep in mind because I don’t usually change the size of things that I’m working on.

Monday, June 11, 2007

More about Howard

I’m still thinking about that documentary on Howard Hodgkin we watched on Saturday. Because I’ve interviewed a lot of artists, I’m fascinated by their creative process and how they express their individuality.
Howard, for example, doesn’t like to be filmed while he’s working or to show his paintings in progress, so all the canvases in his white studio were facing the wall. It was more interesting than seeing them because of the mystery of it all. He will spend years working on one painting until he gets it just right. It didn’t appear that he makes sketches or takes notes. In India, he just sat like a Buddha taking everything in.
At one point Howard says painting is a compulsion, and that he finds it too difficult to be liberated by it. This may be because he has so much going on in his mind he never feels that he’s finished, which of course he isn’t.
If you google Howard Hodgkin, you can find some examples of his paintings. To me, they’re Biblical in tone because I feel like I’m looking into some essential truth. But that’s hard to explain when you’re dealing with an abstract painting.

On a non-Howard note, John took some pictures of the shells on our dining room table that were reflected by the TV set., so naturally I had to play with them in Photoshop and give them my own spin…hence this ATC.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

ATC Night Etcetera

I missed the last two ATC meetings at Bizzy B’s, so I really enjoyed seeing everyone last night. The theme was Italy and as usual no two cards were remotely alike. It was Colette who came up with the new name for our group, ATC Hive, which I thought was really clever because of the bee theme going on at the store, and all the activity. Our next theme is Hot Women (or is it Hot Babes?), and I already have an idea that I want to work on for this.
One of my art students from ten years ago dropped by yesterday before I left, and what a surprise. The last time I saw Steven he was nine years old. Now he’s now a big, burly good-looking guy who has just finished his first year of university and is still drawing.
Today John and I watched a really cool show on the painter Howard Hodgkin whose work I just love. At one point, the man who was interviewing him said: “Howard is happy to give clues about his paintings, but he does not give explanations.” Way to go Howard! Why should you have to explain what you do? People either get it or they don’t. And getting it doesn’t mean being able to explain it either. (At least that’s my excuse).
Howard (I’m calling him by his first name because otherwise I feel like I’m talking about a butler) has been to India over thirty times and part of the documentary takes place there. I was amazed to see elephants walking along the street in New Delhi, and the colors of buildings and clothing were so inspiring. Going to India is definitely on my to do list now.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Goldfinch

I’ve had one of those weeks where I accomplished very little even though I’ve been working really hard. It makes me wonder why we have to focus so much on production because doesn’t always tell the whole story. I know if I didn’t have to produce I’d probably be a much different person, and maybe even a better one. It would be nice to get out of my own head and be someone else for a while.
Take this little goldfinch outside my studio window, for example. I’m sure he’s not stressed out about page quotas and income. Just give him a nice Bachelor Button plant and he’s good to go. I love watching the birds come and go in our garden. We see (and hear) cardinals, robins, mourning doves, sparrows, starlings, redwing blackbirds and woodpeckers around here. One day there was even a family of ducks in the backyard. Not for long though. Lily has her territory and she polices it as faithfully as any cat.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Mary Update

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to get together with Mary, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s going on with her. In fact, earlier today we sent each other emails at almost exactly the same time. (Not that I knew in advance what was in Mary’s email, but it’s always cool to be on the same wavelength).
If you’re looking for a nice jaunt this weekend, Mary will be in the annual craft show at Kew Gardens in the Beaches this Saturday and Sunday (June 9/10). Kew Gardens is/are right around Lee Ave and Queen Street. The sale runs from 10 to 6 p.m., and Mary’s booth is number 101.
She also has her Mizz Mary Etsy shop up and running—about 17 items for sale right now, which include both jewelry and charms (love the roller skates)..
Carmi is selling her adorable miniature cushions or “poufs” on Etsy too, while Colette offers everything from fabric to assemblage at her popular site. Somehow this seems like a friendlier way to sell art than on Ebay.

Monday, June 04, 2007

My Nephew Rex

My computer crashed yesterday, and naturally you always lose something important. Fortunately I back up religiously, so there wasn’t much harm done. But I’ve decided I need to prune my Photoshop files because I just have so many of them.
While I was grazing some of my experiments, I found this picture of Pam’s cat Rex that I’d superimposed on the Mona Lisa for Pam’s birthday card a few years ago. If I’d known then what I know now, I could have put a patina on Rex so he would have blended into Mona with more panache. But what I realized when I opened up the file was that I’d merged the layers in Photoshop. If I want to rework this picture, I’ll have to start again from scratch…and that won’t be happening because I have too many other things on the go.
The one thing I did do right was to save my original photo of Rex. He’s one wild and crazy guy, so it would be fun to put his head on another body at some point in the future.